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Felton steamed over water-rate hike

...
Felton steamed over water-rate hike

<www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2003/January/30/local/stories/09local.htm>

January 30, 2003
By BRIAN SEALS
SENTINEL STAFF WRITER

FELTON -- Residents are fighting mad.
Residents of the area who already pay some of the highest water
rates in the county are facing the prospect of another rate increase.
And if that wouldn’t be enough to get the blood pressure rising, the
residents are angered about the acquisition of that area’s water
company, California-American Water Co., by a German multinational
conglomerate.
About 100 people packed the Felton Community Hall on Wednesday
afternoon to tell the California Public Utilities Commission what they
thought about a proposed rate hike.
While that was the purpose of the meeting, there were even more
harsh words about Cal-American’s acquisition by German energy
conglomerate RWE.
A second session was held Wednesday night.
All who spoke opposed the price increase and many said they already
are strapped paying water bills.
“I struggle daily to make ends meet; you’ll be taking food off my
table,” said Stephanie Retsek, whose bill runs about $71 a month for
two people.
Peggy Black, a 27-year resident of the area, said her bill has risen
from $109 in December 1999 to $157 in December 2002.
Ron Rickabaugh, Felton fire chief, said that as a resident he pays up
to $200 in the summer when watering his vegetables.
“I think that’s enough already,” Rickabaugh said.
California-American wants to hike rates to cover what it says is just
the increased cost of doing business.
The company says it needs to raise rates 71 percent during the next
three years in its 1,315-customer Felton service area.
But company officials said rates for average residential customers
would increase a little more than 14 percent, not counting
surcharges, during the next three years if it can consolidate rates
into a consistent charge for districts in Felton, Monterey and
Montara.
That will be up to the Public Utilities Commission to decide.
While increased rates raised the dander of customers,
California-American’s pending acquisition by German-based RWE
enraged the people even more.
Company official said the acquisition had been completed earlier this
month, but resident Tod Landis said a court challenge could be
forthcoming.
Felton residents said they want their water system locally owned,
not owned by a multinational corporation.
“Whoever controls our water controls us,” said Susan Kipping.
“The people of Felton want their water to be owned and operated
locally,” resident Leah Watson said.
An effort to buy the system locally could be in the works, county
Supervisor Jeff Almquist said.
Almquist said the San Lorenzo Valley Water District and the county
have an interest in acquiring the water system through imminent
domain if need be. The San Lorenzo district has authorized a $75,000
study to investigate the possibility of acquiring the system, he said. A
rejected formal offer is needed before imminent domain can proceed.
Meanwhile, the PUC Office of Ratepayer Advocate recorded the
comments made Tuesday. That office is charged with challenging the
company’s basis for requesting a fee hike, said Jason Reiger, an
attorney with the Public Utilities Commission.
Hearings on the rate hikes are tentatively set for March 24 through
April 4 at Commission offices in San Francisco.
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Contact Brian Seals at bseals (at) santa-cruz.com
 
 


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